Child Exploitation in Tindouf: Polisario Deceives Sahrawi Children for Overseas Relocation

By on July 2, 2024

Each summer, the Polisario Front launches a program called “Vacations in Peace,” which allegedly sends hundreds of Sahrawi children from the Tindouf refugee camps to spend a few weeks with host families in several European countries, particularly Spain.

However, the Forsatin Forum of Support for the Autonomists of Tindouf (FORSATIN) is sounding the alarm that the program is actually a cover for illegal emigration and child trafficking to European associations and families for adoption.

In a statement, FORSATIN explained that the complex operation, which is supervised by Polisario armed militias, involves several stages disguised under various names like “recreational activities,” “visits,” “trips,” and even “therapeutic campaigns.”

FORSATIN stressed that the real aim is to brainwash the minors, uproot them from their origins, separate them from their parents, and force them to abandon their Muslim faith. Upon arriving in Europe, the children are distributed to foreign families who have been waiting to adopt a Sahrawi child.

The NGO noted that the Polisario separatists do not select the children randomly for this operation. They target children who belong to tribal minorities or orphans to avoid protests when these children do not return to the camp at the end of summer, having been left with foreign families.

In addition to what appears to be child trafficking, it was reported that the separatist movement’s leaders also engage in another lucrative operation—enabling individuals to emigrate by passing them off as “Polisario Front executives” or “chaperones” in exchange for payment.

FORSATIN said these operations seem risk-free for the separatists thanks to “facilities granted by the European host countries, as well as by the Algerian regime, which mobilizes its institutions and officials” for the expatriation and sale of Sahrawi minors abroad.

The NGO accompanied its statement with photographs showing a first group of Sahrawi children who arrived in France in the summer of 2024. The images depict the minors attending a religious service in a church, listening to a priest’s sermon, learning foreign religious rituals, and even being baptized in Catholic rituals.

This forced religious conversion is in flagrant violation of the Muslim religious teachings passed on to them by their parents and a violation of their fundamental rights as children.

A Troubling Track Record

This is not the first time the Polisario has been criticized for exploiting Sahrawi children. In August 2020, FORSATIN also revealed the extent of the military exploitation of children in the Tindouf camps, with hundreds being used as soldiers by the separatist militias and even forced to clear minefields.

The first edition of “Vacations in Peace” dates back to the summer of 1979 when the Spanish Communist Party organized a trip to Spain for 100 Sahrawi children. Since then, adoption by European families has become part of the program despite causing family dramas.

In some cases, families in the camps have revolted and refused to let their children be “uprooted,” even going so far as to sequester them upon their return to Tindouf.

Human Rights Watch has also previously called on the Polisario to facilitate the release of women being held by their families in Tindouf after they or their children were adopted in Spain.

The Polisario was forced to comply to avoid a repeat of popular protests that followed the November 2014 exfiltration of Mahjouba Mohamed Hamdidaf, a Spanish national who her biological parents barred from rejoining her adoptive family in Spain for months.

The Polisario’s exploitation of the “Vacations in Peace” children is not just limited to adoption. In August 2018, the Vatican had to issue a clarification that they were not involved politically after a photo of Pope Francis with Sahrawi children in Rome was used for propaganda purposes by the separatists.

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